Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time = Money

This morning, clouds banked up dramatically to the northwest and we got a quick fizzle of snow, then the breeze died and a pale sun emerged. Sweet Lou was up early, pacin the driveway, starin at the blacktop. I wonder if he lost his grand-niece's dog. The silly thing was runnin around last night, givin him fits, dartin this way and that way, across the road, down by the lake, around the house, and then over to the neighbor's house. Lou's too old to go chasin after a tiny headstrong critter like that. So he screamed and swore and even threw a towel at it. Dint do any good. Now I'm thinkin the thing just took off.

Lou's lost a step this winter. Last week he called me "John." Then he spent thirty minutes complainin about the town plows ruining the stone steps leading down to his mailbox. "Goddammit, they're sloppy bastards, John."

"Then this one next door," he jerked his thumb toward the weathered gray cottage whose backyard abuts his, "She's a piece of work. Leaves the cover on her woodpile untied so the wind blows it onto my deck. And the way she feeds the birds, attracts the squirrels and makes a mess. I made her take the feeder down last summer, so the bears wouldn't hang out back there."

I sympathize. I figger when I get to be his age, I'll probably be takin over as neighborhood Inspector General. After all, what are old people for? Sweet Lou ast me, "So what are you up to, John? You like bein outta work? When I first retired I hated it."

I told him I was startin to keep a log of my days, and been tryin to keep up with the business, checkin out websites and blogs, readin the trades, piecin things together as best as I could. Same old shite -- big companies cuttin payroll, small houses scratchin by. Most of the rest of my time I spend goin out for lunches and dinners and whatnot. But I gotta take my daily walk. Otherwise, I'm headed for Fat City. And then I wanna actually read some of those souvenir books that I got layin around.

"Well, time is something you have lots of now," he said. I thought to myself, you try writin one of these friggin things every day, while answerin your e-mail and makin the effort to get in a little social life, now that you don't have the camaraderie of the office to provide your daily dose of human contact.

"Long as you're gettin unemployment, you've got the time. Once you gotta go back to work, forget it. You won't be able to do any of these things. You barely have time to tie your shoelaces. Enjoy it while you can, John."

Mebbe he's right. I ast myself, "What the hell is this thing time anyway?" Whenever I think it's nothin but a useful fiction, my body looks up at me like a faithful dog and says, "Who're you kidding buster? You think I'm gettin any younger?" Of course, Quist used to say, "Time is money." A few years ago, when money was worth something, I could buy that simple-minded formulation. Not any more, Poot, not any more. Gettin laid off helps you see things clearly.

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